Traffic laws vary from state to state, but typically a speeding ticket will cost you around $100 and you'll get about two demerit points on your license. However, there are a few major traffic violations that can mean thousands of dollars in fines, an immediate license suspension and even jail time.
According to Lawyers.com, reckless driving is driving with "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others." This can include performing stunts in a parking lot, purposefully swerving the vehicle, racing another car and tailgating another car. Each state may have different ideas on what constitutes reckless driving. For example: in Michigan, driving on a frozen public lake is considered reckless driving; in Washington, "embracing" somebody in the car is reckless driving; and in Tennessee, "driving a truck filled with mulch looking for cattle is willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property commits reckless driving." Punishment for reckless driving include deportation, jail sentences, automatic suspension or revocation of driver's license and a fine.
Read More: How Long Does Reckless Driving Stay on Your Record?
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you have been in an accident where you have injured a person, yourself, damaged property or have killed someone (even if by accident), you have committed a serious traffic violation. In every state—except Utah, Kentucky and Montana—it is a felony to flee the scene of an accident after killing someone. In many states, it's a felony to flee the scene of an accident that has caused bodily harm to someone or property damage. Should you get into an accident, even a minor one, you must pull over (if possible), stop your vehicle and give your information to the other driver. If someone is injured, you must try to help them or call for medical assistance. Failing to do so can mean spending years in jail and/or paying thousands of dollars in fines
Driving Under the Influence
Driving with a child while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license while intoxicated, driving recklessly while intoxicated and driving under the influence that resulted in manslaughter are all major traffic violations. Whether illegal drugs, certain narcotics or alcohol were involved, driving under the influence is illegal in every state. Typically, first time offenders will pay a heavy fine and may be sentenced to a minimum jail term. However, if you are pulled over while driving under the influence or involved in an accident while intoxicated a second time, you can expect to have you license suspended or revoked, pay thousands of dollars in fines and maybe even spend a few years in jail. If a child was endangered or someone was killed while you were driving intoxicated, you can spend several years incarcerated.
Operating with Suspended/Revoked License
If you have accumulated 12 points on your license or have been convicted of a serious traffic violation, you will have your license suspended or revoked. Some suspensions may allow you to drive to and from work or during certain hours of the day. And some suspensions may only be for a few weeks or a couple of months. However, if you're driving with a restricted, suspended or revoked license you can lose your license for years. If have seriously injured or killed someone while driving with a suspended or revoked license you may be charged with a felony and serve several years incarcerated.
Refusal to Stop for an Officer
If a police officer is pulling you over, you must pull your car to the right side of the road or down a side street and stop the vehicle. Failure to do so can result in a major traffic violation. If you simply did not see the officer, you may be given a hefty fine or ticket. But if you become involved in a high-speed chase, the consequences are much more severe. Failure to stop for an officer is a felony in itself, but you will most likely also be charged with reckless driving. And, of course, if you're involved in a high-speed chase there's probably a reason why (i.e. drugs or alcohol in the car, a warrant out for your arrest or another serious offense). Refusal to stop for an officer alone may result in jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. If you're also charged with reckless driving, you may receive another couple of years in prison. Should you have injured or killed someone, driving under the influence or have a warrant out for your arrest, you may be sentenced to many years in prison.
Vehicular manslaughter is a major traffic violation that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Vehicular manslaughter is when you kill somebody while driving. Although the person was killed unintentionally, your driving is considered illegal. If you killed someone for going slightly over the speed limit, reckless driving, failure to stop at stop sign/stop light or driving unlawfully, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if you accidentally killed someone because you were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, negligence or excessive speeds, you may be charged with a felony and receive jail time. Vehicular homicide is when you intentionally murder someone using your car as a weapon. You can, however, also be charged with vehicular homicide if there was no intent but you were under the influence, killed someone while fleeing a police officer or killed someone due to road rage. If this happens, you can be charged with murder, sentenced to life in prison and even be charged with capital murder.
- Lawyers.com: Reckless Driving
- Michigan Legislature: Michigan Vehicle Code, Act 300 of 1949
- Washington State Legislature: RCW 46.61.665 Embracing Another While Driving.
- Tennessee Department of Transportation: Governor's Highway Safety Office Traffic Safety Laws
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The Facts-Vehicular Homicide and the Impaired Driver
Andrea Griffith has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published by the "Western Herald," Detroit WDIV, USAToday and other print, broadcast and online publications. Although she writes about a wide range of topics, her areas of expertise include fashion, beauty, technology and education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Western Michigan University.